Two more hearing days loom this month in front of Harry Kopyto in his good character hearing before the LSUC. They are Wednesday February 23rd and Thursday, February 24th.
Panel Chair Margot Blight started off on February 2nd announcing that Harry’s motion for disclosure and other relief must be completed by February 4th. Her reason? To get the Law Society to provide any disclosure she might order as soon as possible. She wants to get to the hearing on the merits. It was all rush, rush, rush.
Kopyto protested at being rushed. He pointed out that the LSUC had delayed the hearing on the merits by failing to make full disclosure for almost two years and acting in bad faith. Then, Susan Heakes, senior LSUC prosecuting counsel, spoke. She denied that the LSUC had ever treated Harry in bad faith. Kopyto, stirred into anger by such misrepresentation, responded by marching to the front of the ordinarily staid hearing room waving a file that contained a transcript of a secret tape recording of a telephone conversation he had with a client’s wife. The LSUC had used that secret recording in breach of its own rules to prosecute a lawyer for associating with Harry. Kopyto has been demanding access to the original tape and file which the LSUC had claimed unable to find to shield its embarrassment for almost two years. He then referred to a LSUC memo written years earlier in which the Law Society proposed dropping disbarment proceedings against a colleague of Harry’s at that time, Angie Codina. The price? Harry’s resignation from the LSUC as a lawyer. He recalled another incident in which an auditor was directed to obtain certain files that the LSUC wanted by lying to Harry about needing them for audit purposes. Kopyto thus made a mockery of the Law Society’s pretence of good faith going back to his days as a lawyer. He also gave a clear indication where the proceeding was heading. After some tense moments, Blight relented and allowed Harry to argue for full disclosure without interruption.
The following hearing day, February 4th, the hearing started off again with Susan Heakes making submissions, this time against Kopyto’s claim for full disclosure. When she finished, Chairperson Blight told Kopyto that he could exercise the right of reply (rebuttal) as long as it was brief. While still in the middle of rebutting Heakes’ submissions, Blight pressed the panic button. She interrupted Harry, complaining that he wasn’t brief enough to allow any disclosure orders to be made by the end of that day.
It seems that a rush to speed the LSUC process rather than a commitment to an imperative of full justice has been Blight’s agenda (and likely “standing orders”) all along. Here was Harry insisting on exercising a fundamental right to rebut a newly adduced list of the LSUC’s position. Would Blight respect his right to rebut or try to stifle him? There was tension again, as Blight repeatedly told Harry that she would not allow him to rebut the points made for the first time by Susan Heakes in her submission. Indignant, Kopyto sat down in protest although he had a great deal more to cover. A 20 minute recess followed. Upon her return, Margot Blight admitted forthrightly that it was Harry’s motion and he could present it any way he wanted!
Kopyto immediately switched over from addressing disclosure issues as previously directed by Blight to present a detailed legal argument on the issue of onus as it related to his status as a grandparented paralegal. He argued that he should be judged on a higher standard of proof then non-grandparented paralegals. He argued that the onus was on the Law Society throughout to prove bad character, not on him to prove good character. The essence of his position rested on the fact that because he and other paralegals had been practicing paralegals when they were taken over by their rivals represented by the LSUC, it was not up to the paralegals to prove their competency to continue working in their profession. They had not volunteered to be under the rule of the LSUC but rather were forced into it. It was therefore incumbent on the LSUC to allow these practitioners to continue. If the LSUC had some compelling case to make regarding a lack of good character, they should present and defend their case rather than just assume the role of moral gatekeeper keeping their rival paralegal practitioners in a state of occupational limbo and fear.
Kopyto’s submissions were presented effectively, documented by caselaw and argued with passion and humour which Margot Blight, now more relaxed, occasionally played into. Blight was clearly absorbing Harry’s arguments to the point of even forgetting to adjourn at the set time for lunch.
The contrast with the hostile way in which Carl Fleck treated Harry when he chaired an earlier panel was like day and night. By 5:00 p.m., when Harry finished his presentation, Blight speculated that she might be appointed to hear the merits of Harry’s good character hearing and not only the disclosure motion as she had previously indicated. But she also set two additional hearing dates for late March pushing the get-Kopyto-agenda into high gear.
What can we expect from Margot Blight on February 23rd and 24th? She is paying attention to Harry’s arguments and is astute enough to appreciate the nuances. But is it to better refute his points when the hammer comes down? She has twice acknowledged that Harry can run his motion any way he wants. So why did she initially direct him to argue disclosure issues first? And if she is so fair, why a gross violation of his right to rebut the LSUC’s submissions? She has shut herself off from hearing his points of rebuttal. Does this show an open mind? Is this cricket?
Blight plays her cards close to her chest. Harry needed to tease out her own opinion on his arguments, not a good sign for a real exchange of views. She hears him (when she allows him to speak). But is she listening with a view to fairness? Has she tipped her hand? Being polished is not the same as being sincere. For the legal elite, lies are their oxygen. Blight has been chosen to complete the job on Harry. She is doing it better than her predecessors on two earlier panels that disintegrated in the process.
What is Blight’s record in the short time she has been on Harry’s case? Blight imposed six hearing days on Harry in less then two months. She is working her way through Harry’s preliminary objections. She is trying to case-manage as well as sit as a judge. But there is no dialogue. There is an unseemly rush to justice. And there has been a serious denial of Harry’s fundamental right of rebuttal. Blight’s services have been recruited to deal with Kopyto from outside the LSUC’s ranks. She is already recognized as an adroit advocate for Big Government and Big Business. Now, her loyalty to Big Law peeks out from beneath her convivial demeanor.
The history of Ms. Blight to date reinforces the importance of Harry’s continuing need for public oversight over this panel just as with the others. In law, there is often a discrepancy between appearance and reality. Judges who are subject to public scrutiny are less likely to engage in abusive conduct. Evil thrives in dark corners.
At least 30 observers attended each of the last 2 hearing days. They were there as witnesses, not as a passive audience. They encouraged Harry and offered their unflinching support. Harry spoke to them during the breaks and the dialogue was warm and inspiring. And now it is most urgent to go back again to Osgoode Hall on Wednesday and Thursday February 23rd and 24th at 9:15 a.m. The battle continues.